Designing a new product from potato starch

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Unit plan: Designing a new product from potato starch
Overview
Students develop their knowledge to design a disposable product as a sustainable alternative to an existing product.
Purpose
To consider the issues of increasing plastics use and understand why this is not sustainable. To understand the challenges of
developing more sustainable alternatives.
Background
Suggestions for a scenario
Disposable products made from plastic take a long time to break down in landfills and are made from depleting petroleum
resources. A New Zealand company is making alternative products that are 100% biodegradable and compostable. The
company needs ideas for new products that will have high consumer demand because producing more will help bring costs
down.
Where's the Biotechnology?
Biotechnology research is looking at using material from plants, like cereals and tubers, to make materials that will biodegrade
and use renewable resources. They have to formulate the material to have properties that will endure the end use and will not
have harmful effects on people or the environment when used and disposed of.
Curriculum focus
Technology
Technological practice: Students will develop a brief for a new product to be made from potato starch material. They will
identify a need or opportunity, develop a conceptual statement and identify attributes or specifications that allow the fitness for
purpose of their product to be evaluated. They will refine their brief as they develop knowledge of the material, constraints and
stakeholder feedback. Technological knowledge: Students will develop an understanding of how the properties of starch can be
©2005-2009 The University of Waikato
www.biotechlearn.org.nz
Home > Focus stories > Potato plates > Designing a new product from potato starch
manipulated and transformed to create mouldable foam products with different properties that meet changing needs. They will
use three dimensional drawings or mock-ups to model, evaluate and justify their product designs. Nature of technology:
Students will develop an understanding of how technology can expand human possibilities and result in positive, negative and
unanticipated impacts on people and the environment.
Focus of skill & strategy
Students will learn about sustainability issues with synthetic plastics and about new materials being developed to address the
issues. They will learn how starch can be recycled and transformed into a mouldable foam material and how the material can
be disposed of to support growth of future crops. Students will develop designs for new products that could expand the use of
this technology, while considering the need for consumer acceptance. They will be able to justify the feasibility of a proposed
product.
Health and Safety
Health and safety need to be considered when testing the properties of potato plates and plastic plates. Care needs to be taken
handling and containing hot and cold liquid and cleaning up the equipment and area used.
©2005-2009 The University of Waikato
www.biotechlearn.org.nz
Home > Focus stories > Potato plates > Designing a new product from potato starch
UNIT PLAN: Designing a new product from potato starch
Suggested learning
intentions
Suggested learning experiences
Possible teaching /assessment
activities
Introduction
Introduction
Introduction
Understand why plastics use
has increased so rapidly and
appreciate the health and
environmental issues.

Brainstorm and discuss the widespread use of
plastics in everyday products.
Show pictures of plastic products.

Research plastics. What are they made from
and how are they produced? What are the
issues?
Internet/text research.
Understand the concept of
lifecycle analysis and
sustainability.

Introduce potato plates. Discuss ideal properties
for a disposable plate. Carry out tests to
compare these properties in the potato starch
and plastic plates to determine fitness for
purpose. Include a cost comparison and
lifecycle analysis and present a conclusion.

Discuss the issues currently affecting the
development of environmentally friendly
materials.
Developing a brief
Developing a brief
Understand that material
properties need to suit the end
use of a product.
©2005-2009 The University of Waikato
www.biotechlearn.org.nz

The issue: Biodegradable materials using
renewable ingredients such as potato starch are
a sustainable alternative for disposable
products. Waste potato starch in New Zealand
currently goes down the drain and could be
Show video clip: What are potato
plates?
Set up instructions and resources
for testing plates and recording
results.
For information on lifecycle
analysis, see information sheet:
Environmental benefits of potato
plates.
Refer to the sustainability helix at
www.potatoplates.co.nz.
Developing a brief
Show video clip: Recycling potato
plate waste
Show video clip: Why import
potato starch?
Home > Focus stories > Potato plates > Designing a new product from potato starch
Appreciate the importance of
stakeholder views in product
development.
Understand how modelling
allows ideas to be
communicated and evaluated.
©2005-2009 The University of Waikato
www.biotechlearn.org.nz
processed to enable more products to be made
from this material. Develop a conceptual design
for a new product to be made from this
material.

In groups, discuss the issue and make a plan to
research possibilities and develop a concept.
What do you know and what do you need to
find out? Who are the key stakeholders, and
how and when can you communicate with
them?

Consider how Potatopak develops a product.

Discuss the properties of the material and how
this may impact on possible end uses.

Discuss the manufacturing process and other
factors that may affect the design of products
from this material, for example, set-up costs,
market demand, functionality, environment.

Brainstorm some possible products that could
be made from this material and do a PMI
analysis of each. Discuss how benefits of a new
product need to outweigh those of the product
they are replacing.
Provide a simple Gantt chart
template and establish timeframe
and milestones.
Provide guidelines for
communicating with stakeholders
and completing a survey.
Refer to information sheet:
Developing potato plates
Show video clip: Potato plate
research and development
Show video clip: Honeycomb
structure of potato plates
Refer to earlier test results.
Make popcorn to simulate the
expansion of the starch to a foam.
Use interactive: Potato plate
manufacturing process
Refer to information sheet:
Developing potato plates
Refer to information sheet: The
biodegradable possum bait station
Show video clip: Biodegradable
possum bait station
Brainstorm key attributes in groups
then share as a class.
Home > Focus stories > Potato plates > Designing a new product from potato starch
Presenting a design proposal
Describe key attributes for a potato starch
product based on previous research and
discussion.

Use modelling techniques (such as three
dimensional drawings, CAD and/or mock-ups)
to discuss and evaluate ideas with the group
and key stakeholders.

Modify as necessary to make a feasible design.

Present a final brief for the product design
Presenting a design proposal
Develop skill in 3D drawing
techniques.
Appreciate that consumer need
and uptake are essential for a
product to be successful in the
market place.
Considering ethics


Present the design to the class using
appropriate drawing techniques.

Present a convincing argument showing the
benefits of making this product from potato
starch compared to the original material.
Include supporting data from stakeholders.
Considering ethics
Appreciate that there are
varying views on using food
crops for non-food applications.
©2005-2009 The University of Waikato
www.biotechlearn.org.nz

Debate the issue of using food crops for nonfood applications.
Presenting a design proposal
Assess development of the final
brief and supporting arguments
presented to the class.
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